At over 100 acres Judy woods is one of Yorkshire’s largest ancient beech woodlands.
The name Norwood Green, or Northwood Green, as the village was still called by some in the 19th century, points to an origin as a clearing within woodland. From soil evidence which is composed of leafmould, it is likely that there has been woodland covering this area since the last ice age. You only have to look at images of the Oxheys area on Google to see the way land has been cleared between Fall Woods at Shelf and Judy Woods on the Bradford/Calderdale border.
The woods we now call Judy Woods were part of the Rookes family’s Royds Hall Estate. The constituent woods Doctor Wood, Low Wood, Old Hanna Wood, Royds Hall Great Wood, Jagger Park together with other smaller woods are named in documents going back to the 1500’s and beyond.
They were spring woods, bringing in money for the estate using the coppicing with standards system where the woodland was coppiced on a regular basis, a compartment at a time. The sticks cut from the coppice stools were used for tool handles, hurdles or the production of charcoal. Standards were individual trees allowed to mature and when felled they could be used for planks, furniture or house building.
In the mid to late 1700’s Edward (Rookes) Leedes of Royds Hall rented out deep coal mines, whose remains can still be seen in Low Wood. In 1790 partners Hird, Jarrett, Dawson and Hardy bought the estate, including the woods, from the assignees of Edward Leedes when they were setting up the Low Moor Company iron foundry. Parts of the woods were extensively mined for both coal and ironstone. Around 180 years ago the mixed woodland was replaced by plantations of beech and some oak and sycamore which we see today.
The North family started a market garden near the bridge in the early 1800’s and mid century the public gardens and refreshments provided by Judy North, after whom the woods are now named, became a popular place with locals. In Victorian times the lanes leading through the woods were used by walkers and descriptions appear in books of the time, most notably Johnnie Grays “Pleasant walks around Bradford – where to spend a half holiday”
When the Low Moor Company was taken over in the 1920’s Bradford Corporation bought land in the area, including the woods, which were then opened to the public for the first time and remain a much visited spot. They are the third largest woodlands in the Bradford Metropolitan District covering 138 acres.
In 2002 The Friends of Judy Woods were formed and each year they have a varied walks programme. Their Practical Tasks Group meets each Wednesday morning to tackle litter clearing, path and dry stone wall maintenance among other things
Images courtesy of Friends of Judy Woods